James needs some love

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

A bad actress once said: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."

In the real word, or at least in Raptors guard Mike James' world, love means a lot more than that.

It's love, James insists, that ultimately will decide where he plays next year. It's a word he has used repeatedly when asked what it will take to sign him to a new deal when the current campaign ends. The difficulty is, James has more definitions of love than the Beatles had songs with Love in the title.

But after a long, in-depth, sometimes rambling, conversation with the Raptors personable point guard yesterday, this much we can determination.

To Mike James, love means:

1. Lots of money.

Well, duh. Every free agent coming off a good season wants a lot of money. But in James' case, the longtime NBA journeyman wants to move into the same neighbourhood as the big boys. James believes he has been underpaid for years (he makes $3.4 million US this season) and believes he deserves what the NBA's top point guards receive. Can you say $8 million to 10 million per year?

"Just give me what I deserve. Don't underpay me," he said. "I'm tired of being called an underachiever. I'm tired of being underpaid and I've been underpaid since I've been in this game, so now it's time for me to get what I deserve.

"I know I went to Duquesne (University), I know I was undrafted. But that was five to six years ago. Let's talk about what's happening in 2006," James said. "I'm tired of seeing guys who don't deserve what they're getting, getting it, and not doing what they're supposed to do."

2. Love means general manager Bryan Colangelo signing Chris Bosh to a new deal this summer and doing what he can to keep the team's foundation players together for a long time. If Colangelo can do that, James insisted, the Raptors could develop into an outfit like the Detroit Pistons. Yes, he said the Pistons.

"We have a good thing going here and I believe that if management allows this team to grow up together, we're going to have something real good," he said. "You don't build a great team overnight. It takes time for each player to learn each other."

Indeed, James said earlier this month the Raptors will make the playoffs next season if they keep the team together.

3. Love means having a long leash.

James wants a team to allow him to live life on his terms -- to be able to ride a motorcycle, to be able to sky dive. Most pro athletes have clauses in their contracts prohibiting them from partaking in risky activities during the off-season. Remember Paul Quantrill and his snowmobile accident? The Canadian pitcher told the Blue Jays he broke his right femur tobogganing, before confessing the truth some time later.

"I'm an on-the-edge type person. I love living life," James said. "I understand what's at stake. I know I'm an investment. But my thing is, would you rather me lie to you? And when you ask me what happened, I say I fell in the shower.

"I'm sorry that I enjoy doing things that people are scared to death to do. I'm sorry that I don't mind going parasailing, that I don't mind jumping out of an airplane. That I don't mind trying to bungy jump.

WANTS A DEAL

There's nothing wrong with having fun.

"But if that's your excuse for why you don't want to give me a deal. So be it. I'm pretty sure there's 30 teams in the NBA. I don't need all 30 to love. I'm just looking for one," he said.

Money, his teammates, a long leash, respect. Yes, for Mike James, love is a many-splendored thing.


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